Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blue screen of death

Was what greeted me shortly after starting work. I think I have fixed the problem now, but essentially it took up my whole day, backing up everything as a precaution, and then scouring the Internet for solutions, running diagnostics and so on. Bah. Becoming acutely aware of the need to add to the Kenny coffers and the prospect of having to fork out for a new computer not best timed. Managed little snippets of work between all this too.

Much happier evening. Went off to the other side of town to the Hartington pub in the company of Lorraine and Dawn. There we met Richard and Dipak, now styling themselves as The Shakespeare Trio, Richard's missus Maria Grazia, and Glen. Richard and Dipak were great, Dipak on sparkling form - mostly new work I'd not heard - despite the PA being somewhat ropey. Lots of other interesting stuff, including a man tapdancing on a board jamming with a violinist and guitarist. One or two fine female voices, and lots of hairy old blokes having fun. Great to be in a room full of music, and we all enjoyed it.

Jumped into Dawn's little red car and she drove me, then Lorraine home. Home and the computer had run its last diagnostic and so on, and seemed to be working. Apart from it being unable to connect to the Internet. D'oh. And so to bed.

Monday, May 30, 2011

A green interlude

Woke up with a hangover at 6:30, but I had slept heavily undisturbed by the party nearby which continued well into the following afternoon. Got up after a while, left Lorraine sleeping and started a new jaded poem about drinking, called A quiet drink.

In the afternoon off to Wakehurst Place, a beautiful place, belonging to Kew Gardens. Slightly overcast and humid this afternoon, and we sniffed up the green and fragrant air greatfully. Wandered about, past the vast ark of the seed bank, and into the wooded areas. Spent a happy hour or two wandering about here, taking the odd photo and Lorraine touching all the plants and looking greedily into their flowers.

Below became a little obsessed with twisty Oaks branches today. We will return.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cider in the country

Up early this morning and wrote a new poem in about two minutes, and it is good. Experience tells you of course, that you have to let these things settle for a while. But I have never written a poem so fast. It is called Predator and left me feeling on a bit of a high during the day.

In the late afternoon off to Beth's pal Kayleigh's 21st birthday party, swerving by Mark's place to collect him and Richard and Glenda. Off into the countryside, driving along narrow roads with dozens of rabbits in the verges. Pleasant garden party with a barbecue, lots of nice people with singing interludes from Mark, who wrote a song for Kayleigh with a hangover this very morning, and other performances from Betty, Amy, Jo and others. All rather good fun.

I mainly drank cider with Richard and Glenda and other guests, and waxed exceedingly loquatious until shepherded into the car by Lorraine. Richard and Glenda singing Strangers in the Night in the back as the entirely sober Lorraine drove us home.

Below Amy and Beth and Jo and Mark singing. Kayleigh and Beth among others laughing at Mark's funny song.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jaguar-faced Mum

Up this morning chatting with Mum, and taking photos of her with her masks. One of which sparkled a bit to replicate fireflies. Then a hasty toast breakfast before Lorraine, Mum and I hoofed up the hill to Janet's house where Mum was making an exhibition of herself. Hung out chatting to Ken and Janet, Huss and some other exhibitors for some time, and Lorraine and I were just making good our escape when Robert, Tanya and Mason pulled up in the car outside.

Lorraine jumped in and guided them to a parking spot, and Mason came back with me. Lots more chatting, and soon joined again by the rest. Mason had been dreaming about the burgers in The Sussex Yeoman round the corner from me, so we left Mum to do her stint and hang out with her artist brethren, and Lorraine, Mase Robert and Tanya made off and ate Yeoman burgers. These like meaty cannonballs, which were great but left you wanting nothing much for the rest of the day. Robert very sad about his sister, who has cancer very seriously now and only has a short time to live. Despite this a very nice time was had. After Tanya and Robert made off to the sea, and I went to collect Mum.

HOme and everyone back there, Tanya and Robert having bought a tarte of some description, which we all ate with tea. Fond farewells, then Lorraine and I stretched out on the gold sofa watching the European Champion's League cup final between Barcelona and Manchester Utd. A few tormenting texts to Anton, but lost heart as United were totally outclassed by the Catalan team.

Below Mum sporting some of her new masks.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A breakthrough

Another day anxiously rushing about in the morning, sending invoices, and a last minute entry to a poetry competition, and working through a list of things to do to help me feel in control again. Today I filed away all my bills, and utility correspondence, bank statements etc. for the last few months. Quite pleased to do this as I noticed one of the bills I thought I had been paid, hadn't been and was in fact a 'solicitor's letter'. Was able to pay this before the water was cut off to my house.

Then an extraordinary thing happened. I had an image for a poem in my head and sat down and biffed it out in one go. It is very different and I looked at it afterwards in a kind of wonder. It is a Peter Kenny poem but a very different sort of Peter Kenny poem. It is called Autobiography of a Hermit Crab.

Mum arrived this afternoon bearing jaguar masks. Lots of chats and cups of tea, and at five we drifted down to The Basketmakers where we met Matt, bearing an envelope with the sheet music for our three choral pieces. Matt cut the last line of the piece we have just completed, Adam, and this was a huge improvement. Very cool to see all the music manuscripts for these three pieces. Mum having a good time, sipping wine and telling Matt what Ronnie Scott's was like in the 60s.

Then Mum and I back to my place, eating fish and chips and drinking tea. Lorraine arrived late and in need of a glass of wine, having been out with her girlfriends.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Raining poets in London

Sleeping-pill assisted sleep made me feel much improved today, although still unaccountably edgy. But cut through things quickly, sent copies of Defenders off to an agent and to Shaun Shackleton at the Guernsey Press. Also contacted The Sussex Beacon about the CD project, went to see Adrian and Diane about photographs, taking in dozens of spangly high heels Adrain is shooting. Was made a lovely cup of coffee and had a nice chat with both.

Off to London, plans changing at the last moment so took myself amid torrential rain to the poetry library in The Royal Festial Hall. Had a strange sequence of coincidences all relating to people I knew really well in the early 90s. Wandered over at random to pick up a copy of Acumen and it fell open at a poem by Rhona McAdam, an old friend. Next magazine I picked up it fell open at a review of the excellent iTuplips by Mario Petrucci, another old friend. Wandered aimlessly along the shelves and Tim Gallagher's Narcissus Goes A-Courting which I helped put together stared out at me. I picked up a list of competitions and the first one I saw was judged by Tamar Yoseloff someone else I knew quite well. Not sure how all this left me feeling. Sat down in a sofa just outside the library doors, listening to the wind howling around the Royal Festival Hall in a Peake-ish manner, and thinking that at least I had a book in there, even if it is (with typical dose of Kenny fame repellent) filed under F for Fleming.

Then across the river and dodging rain up to Foyles, where I bought two books. Trouble Came to the Turnip by Caroline Bird, and the Selected Poems of Anna Akhmatova translated by Richard McKane. Richard was someone I have also met on many occasions years ago in the Troubadour Coffee House, and he was busy translating with passion Akhmatova's works. There are glowing reviews on the back of this fine book published by Bloodaxe, and I am delighted that Richard's project has come to this fruition. Like Caroline Bird's book too on first reading.

Ran then to the Victorian gin palace splendours of the Salisbury, dodging heavy rain and lightning, running past alarmed tourists in doorways. Sat reading my purchases and waiting for Anton and Terry Brissenden. Terry arrived first. I had not seen him for over ten years, and he looked much the same. Really nice guy who runs his own agency, full of ideas and good company. Also Anton sporting his new glasses which make him look intelligent. Lots of catching up with Terry. Interested when I told him about my various projects he suggested that I was doing too many things. I will have to think about that.

Then a desire for food... Managed to get into the third restaurant, a Chinese one in Soho and snapped down a large feast. Terry insisted on paying for the meal, and then disappeared into the night. Anton and I had a protracted and slow journey back to Brighton. For a two stops of our journey we were on the same carriage as former Chelsea hero Gianfranco Zola. As I got off I walked up to him and shook his hand. Nice man.

Back blearily to Brighton after midnight and, refusing Anton's request to carry him up the hill, retired gracefully home.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Preponderance of the small

Insomnia again. Woke up at two, suddenly wide awake and full of unfounded panic. When this abated, my brain booted up, forcing me eventually to get up and list the things merry-go-rounding in my wide awake head. This helped and I had another hour's sleep.

Lorraine brought me a tea, and blearily shopped before returning home. I clunked poor Calliope's head as I opened my front door, but she seemed none the worse for it. A day of small jobs: hard to work through a veil of tiredness. I had a haircut, luckily the walrus-faced barber wasn't there, and I was quite pleased with the result. Otherwise a day of throwing pebbles into an unplinking pool.

Reading an interesting book Anton lent me this evening: Atlas of Remote Islands, by Judith Schalansky. Beautifully designed book which perhaps hints at the future of books versus electronic books. As highly crafted objects of beauty. As a bonus the content rather nice too, the histories of remote islands as interpreted by someone born behind the Berlin wall.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

FB'd by La Barbarie

Fairly productive. Finished the new words for the last song on the Pollard/Kenny CD -- and later talked to Matt who is finally nailing the final rehearsal dates. Got a note from Andrew Coleman at La Barbarie. They now have a facebook page www.facebook.com/labarbariehotel and Andrew was gave a nice account of Defenders on the page. Worked on Betty the Spacegirl and pushed on with some business leads.

To the gym, followed by a tofu-based lunch.

Out for a coffee with Anna this afternoon. Lovely coffee. She showed me the text of her book on coaching people about the choices presented around having babies, and the first years of parenthood. Looking good. Anna's been slogging till midnight lately getting it all ready, and I was impressed with the results. Home again to wait for a bloke to appear with a quote for decking, some time after he was due he texted explaining he'd send someone around next week.

Slightly beset by gloom and non-specific twitching today. In the evening, however, went around to Lorraine's. She'd finished working at nine, and we had a glass of wine and yawned at each other before an early night.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Ah Um

Edgy today: I blame the stars. Best to be busy, so I got busy invoicing, buying stamps and envelopes, going to the bank, posting a book to Amazon,talking to people about decking, following a business lead, arranging a London trip later this week and all the other chores that flesh is heir to. Also rewriting the words on a piece Matt and I are doing.

In the evening up the hill to babysit for Anton and Anna as today was their eighth wedding anniversary. They sloped down to Chilli Pickle for a slap up feed and gin and tonics. While I had fun with Klaudia and Oskar reading stories, while Klaudia shone a red light on everyone to find out if we had blood. Found a particularly bad book called Puddle the Naughtiest Puppy which finally had the desired soporific effect.

Stole downstairs and listened to Mingus Ah Um, and the track Goodbye Pork Pie Hat half a dozen times. Lovely piece. Also read some poems by Mario Petrucci, i Tulips which are humblingly good. Then a bit of TV. Anton and Anna back home at ten and I sloped home, and fiddled with bits and pieces and still managed to go to bed late.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Oaks with Katie

Up early with an itchy sense of must get on with things. Marched back to my house from Lorraine's sat down at my desk and realised my glasses were at her house. What is it about having to retrace steps that is so appalling? Even if I realise I have left something at home just a few yards down the twitten, those backwards steps fill me with rage and loathing far beyond the actual inconvenience.

Worked on bits and pieces to do with This concert will fall in love with you, before being collected again by Lorraine and driven out into the wilds guided by the satnav, to where First Matie lives, in a village called Warnham. She has a lovely garden with a tree in it, and nearby was a big oak, which the wind was sounding through. (My new obsession.)

Off to the sturdily named The Sussex Oak for Sunday Lunch. Decided to sit outside in the beer garden, but it instantly began raining on the parched land and we returned inside. Kate on good form and cheerful, which was lovely to see. It had been far too long since I saw her. Lots of catching up and some good gossip over a nice traditional roast beef meal with Yorkshire pudding and loads of veggies, horse radish sauce and English mustard.

Lorraine drove me home, and went back to her house to do loads of sorting out to do with Betty going to college, and work stuff which she was doing intermittently all day, including an online coaching session this morning.

I felt rather flat, despite playing with the cat and watching football and writing lists of the many things I have to do. Before I went to bed looked at the computer, and there was a note from an ex-colleague with a lead for more work, as well as an Amazon order for A Guernsey Double. All well.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mindmap with cats

In need of several teas this morning. Up at Lorraine's place and then we both wandered back to mine. Began a huge mindmap of all the million things I need to do before L and I can move together. This involves things like redoing decking, and talking to banks, and learning how to rent places and a dozen other things way beyond the outer limits of my comfort zone. Worst of all is Calliope, who sat with us batting my pen. I don't know how she is going to rub along with Basil and Brian. Vets have to be consulted, and plug in pheromone things bought to soothe the transition. Maybe I need a human version of that too.

Popped up to see Janet again, and hand her a belated birthday card. Lots of people streaming through her show, though few bigger ticket items were bought.

In the evening back to Lorraine's, where she cooked up an incredibly nice meal and we had Dawn around. Sam was also there, so the four of us had dinner, Sam on good form especially about politics. Beth and Mark there too. Beth with a ghastly spasmed back, which Mark managed to massage away. Really enjoyed talking to Dawn, and fortuitously she can help a good deal with the things I need to know, and knows people who can do stuff at reasonable prices. This made me feel a good deal cheerier. A nice night.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Earworms and Queen Victoria

Some French work this morning, writing about the joys of hepcat music concerts in Southern France. Anton tormenting today. Trying to get me to download a audiobook by Terry Pratchett called Pyramids, I eventually relented. Also the previous night he had played me a psychobilly version of the Joe 90 children's show, which has been an infuriating earworm all day and I have been wandering about singing it.

Fiddling about with my personal site and my other blog which is now called peter kenny the notebook and is going to be 100 times better as a repository of all my adventures in writing.

Off in the late afternoon to meet Catherine Pope for a beer in the basketmakers. Really interesting chat with her. We were soon joined by Matt and had an enjoyable few beers which were definitely not in my plans for a leaner skinnier Peter Kenny. Catherine is steadily republishing out-of-print Victorian novels. She is a Victorianist, and an all round very nice and interesting person. But she was not above telling me that Queen Victoria was a bit of a goer, and wrote a colourful (but subsequently suppressed) entry the day after her wedding night, saying how much she had enjoyed the experience and what a stallion Albert was.

After a while Lorraine joined Matt and I who and we went for another less than dieting curry in our usual place, which was nevertheless rather fun. Found myself ranting about The GuernseyLiterary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society, which is a clear signifier of having taken too much drink. Lorraine led me home and an early night was on the cards.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A bit of a buzz

Calliope has a buzzing mouth again. She enters with a thoughtful look on her face, and when the fly escapes, she hurtles recklessly around the room until the fly no longer works. By evening the floor is littered with corpses. There was so much noise at one point I thought someone was trying to break into the house, and I went downstairs and found the weasel hanging half way up a net curtain.

Worked on the wind poem, called Wind Raga, faffed in Cyberspace and started writing Invaders of Guernsey as the whole story is in my head. Just before bedtime, however, noticed an absolute howler in the text of Defenders, which was a bit depressing.

Back to the gym this afternoon. Felt harder going today, and was sweaty. I walked in through the gym's swipe card turnstile, which didn't work. As I was trapped there, the boy on the desk said 'What are your goals?' and then 'what are your targets?' as if I hadn't understood him. He was trying to upsell me to more gym classes. I replied, in properly grouchy style, that my target was to get through this bloody turnstile.

In the evening up the road to hang out with Anton, listen to some new music and admire his varifocals. This being Anton they had been carefully selected: roundish and chic in a retro old school look, with a gorgeous leather case. I went up to say good night to Klaudia, who showed me her collection of rubber band-like bracelets and read me some poems from a first book of children's poetry, the little sweetie.

I left earlyish as I was very tired tonight. Back down the hill phoning Lorraine who was yawning and already in bed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lost in cyberspace

Another day rationalising my sites and blogs, and dealing with those 'with whom I am in correspondence'. This blog will be unchanged, though I will filter more of the writing stuff into my other blog renamed peter kenny: the notebook. This kind of cyber faffing is a thief of time, as my sites and so on are a bit of a rabble.

Also happily tinkering with a poem about the wind. (NB not the gastric sort.)

Wrote to Catriona and Tony in Guernsey with supportive notes about the festival. Spoke to La Duchesse Jane who told me some of the toe-curling details of the final Festival party, which went badly wrong and everyone in a huff. And spoke to Matt, busy cat herding musicians for our rehearsals, and to Anton who invited me up tomorrow evening.

Otherwise a trip to the gym to enliven matters. And later popped into the pub to hang with the musos. Principally Steve, Glen, Richard G, and Adam. Got involved in a bit of an incident, as a retired man who had been attending a union conference, began speaking to me aimably enough. Gradually he started ranting about politics, and getting spitty, agressive and jabby with his fingers. I told him to stop, perhaps rather forcibly. He did. We parted on good terms. Surprised some of my compadres. I lose my temper so rarely people are amazed when I do. The rest of the night talking about things like the virtues of the composer Moondog and so on.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Taking stock

First day back from Guernsey, and plenty to be getting on with. I am having a major re-think of my cyber presence... As there is too much and it's all too complicated. I spent most of the day and night sorting these out. Typically my weight peaked in Guernsey when there were cameras and people looking at me, so I am now back on a much more rigourous diet.

Mostly however I think a few days where Richard and I managed a BBC radio appearance and three poetry readings. It was excellent to work with Richard as usual. It it's good to approach these things with a friend whose work you admire.

Additionally I did my two Skelton Yawngrave sessions, a poetry cafe reading and some protracted networking and with the best part of 160 Skelton Yawngrave stories now in the island's schools. Thanks to the Guernsey Literary Festival I arrive home full of a revived interest in poetry, in Mervyn Peake, in the poetry of Caroline Carver, the singing of Olivia Chaney and much much more.

On the Brighton front had a chat with Betty and we are going to reschedule to next play, which is a sensible move as it is only a few weeks away and we are badly behind on our planning.

Otherwise kept myself to myself and, purposefully, got on with things. In the evening I started writing a poem about the wind in the trees. Climbed into bed at 11:30 and read a few poems before sleep. I opened the Mervyn Peake book at random, and the first poem was about the wind in the trees. Interesting.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Home from home

Last morning at La Barbarie. A good night's sleep again, thank God. The full Guernsey breakfast was followed by a call to St Martin's Primary. I also called the number that was given me by Mary last night, speaking to the father of a boy who had lost his copy of Defenders on the way home. I arranged for the parents to pick one up from the hotel. Once packed Lorraine and I went to my old school and donated the remaining copies of Defenders of Guernsey to it. A strange feeling of coming full circle, returning to my first-ever school during play time, boys running at a bank of earth and somersaulting mid-air.

Then paid my respects to La Gran'mère. Lorraine then left to work on the laptop, while I sorted out a new flower holder for my grandparents grave. Added white carnations and with some left over, added carnations to other family graves. The newest grave, not yet with a headstone, had a woman tending it. The name was Marquis, which is my Guernsey family's name. I talked with the widow and we established these were a different family, but seeing a fresh grave with Marquis on it choked me up.

I met Lorraine a bit later in The Captains where we addressed ourselves to bottles of Pony Ale, and scampi and chips in the company of an ice cube-eating Labrador. We left then for a last walk to Icart. The colours today were extraordinarily vibrant. The blue and turquoise of the sea, the green of the cliffs, the yellow, white and pink of the flowers, puffy white clouds. It was a world of utter colour, windy and full of birdsong.

Back to the hotel to collect our cases and taxi to the airport. Very sad to be going of course, but this time with a sense of having done myself proud, and how lucky I am to have Lorraine who is totally supportive. The flight home rather enjoyable despite the fact I always feel gloomy about leaving Guernsey. Onto the evening train at Gatwick to Brighton. Dull faced commuters, stinking of real life. I have two homes.

Everything shipshape after Lorraine's folks had been cat sitting. Fond farewell with Lorraine, and then chatted to Mum before the enormous task of documenting the last few days.... However had a blue screen of death on my computer twice, until I pulled out the little memory stick I had inserted, and everything was fine again. Rather alarming however.

Below Lorraine and La G, a cliff, my grandparent's grave, La G and me (obviously with some species of face ache) and an unknown (to me) lepidopteron.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Three Peakes and a harbour

A great night's sleep, and fantastic not to be seeing the world through a veil of exhaustion. Detailed conversation about Leicester Tigers rugby club, by two guests who had adopted Lorraine yesterday. I found myself fresh out of cheerful sports banter department before I'd even had a cup of tea.

Lorraine and I took a transcendentally beautiful walk under a perfect blue sky to Icart and around and down to Saints Harbour. I rarely find myself there, so took a several photographs.

A slow walk back up the hill, listening to the water running down the valley and the birdsong, before returning to the hotel for a fast sandwich before catching the bus into town.

This afternoon The Poetry Café, crammed full of poets -- Caroline Carver (who I rather like as a person) plus bus prize winners, and some locals I recognised. Some good interesting poetry going on, and I read a couple of poems too. Just over halfway through Lorraine and I realised we were about to be late for another talk I had intended to attend. So we legged up to Candie Gardens where we attended a fascinating lecture with all three of Mervyn Peake’s children Fabian, Sebastian and Clare there.

I asked three questions about Arundel, Peake and Tolkien, and Peake’s poetry. Sebastian, who I liked a great deal and had corresponded with, said that Arundel Castle certainly contributed to Gormenghast but not as much in his opinion as China had. Sebastian also thought that Peake and Tolkien were opposites, that Tolkien looked down from a lofty height, while Peake was more down and dirty. Fabian Peake said that his father's poetry was perhaps the most important of all his creative expressions. All fascinating stuff.

After watching a brass band outside, Lorraine and I mooched off with Edward Chaney. We sat outside on the Thai restaurant balcony having a cold lager. Nice to chat to Edward and thank him personally for his writing of the introduction to A Guernsey Double. He is a very charming and likeable man and, as a professor, obviously has a large brain too. Then Lorraine and I hopped on a bus, for an early sixes and sevens supper at La Barbarie, and a chilled evening.

We took a late walk just after sundown. Bats flitting about in the still light sky, and just before coming in again, we stood listening to the wind in the trees for several minutes. This is one of my favourite things to do, and seems in the quiet which still descends on Guernsey, a perfect moment, which struck me as being more eloquent and moving than anything I’d said or heard all week.

Below Jane Mosse reading at the poetry cafe, some idea of the colours on offer around Saints Harbour. Plus a bizarre knot of tiny spiders.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A town full of poets

Insomnia: woke at 1am and did not sleep again till 6am. While I at last snoozed, Lorraine stole away, had breakfast, and returned with with a bacon sarnie in a bag. Groggily up and hoofed onto the bus into town. Popped into the library with three copies of Defenders of Guernsey. The librarian Maggie recognised me, and was pleased to take the books. Then Richard and I gave our final reading from A Guernsey Double in the inflatable hub in the Market. Catriona was press-ganged into introducing us. I felt more pleased with my reading today, though we found it noisier than our previous sessions, but I think we were both more relaxed. Bloney motorbikes. A small but select audience, including the poet Caroline Carver and Marylin, aka Guernsey Girl, who I have met through blogging. Caroline was kind enough to buy our book.

Lorraine, and I joined Richard and Caroline in Richard’s van and went up to Elizabeth College, which I had never been in before, where Caroline was doing a reading and a workshop, which was introduced by Jane. Beautiful view from the room at the top of the building. Listened to her intriguing reading, and returned the favour by buying her book Three Hares too, which she dedicated to 'Peter, a lovely poet', which was kind of her.

Lorraine and I then walked back to St Martin's parish from town in the bright sun. We stopped in the Criox Guerin for a bite to eat and a glass of crisp lager. Back to the hotel and a doze, with half an eye on the FA cup final, won by Manchester City. Then met Lesley and Derrek for a meal in La Barbarie. Before the meal, Andrew Coleman asked if I minded him mentioning A Guernsey double in the email he sends to his hundreds of regular guests. He didn’t have to bend my arm very hard.

I had a Thai curry which, although delicious, substituted coconut milk with local cream. Derrek drove us back into town and we attended the event organised by Jane in the town church, with all the bus prize winning poets (some big names among them) and Olivia Chaney singing. A very entertaining and successful night with some good poetry, and Olivia's stunning voice. She sang an eclectic mix: old folk songs, her own material, and bits from opera. Sitting in the lovely old Town Church in this way was a pretty good way to spend Saturday night. Derrek and Lesley, who I really like, drove us home. Lorraine suddenly enthused by Derrek about folk music. A nightcap with my lovely Lorraine in the bar of the Barbarie, reflecting in a tired way on another great day.

Below Richard and I, the Laurel and Hardy of Guernsey poetry, in the hub disagreeing with some enjoyment about La Gran'mère, Caroline Carver reading in the Church, and Olivia Chaney singing barefoot.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The cry of a ghostly goat

Prepared for my biggest day by having a terrible night’s sleep, and by being fragile from the from the fiendish pink wine served at the Gold Sponsor’s Reception. Woke up feeling nervous: had a rushed nervous breakfast, and nervously rode on the bus into town with Lorraine and a heavy case full of books, laptop and so on. Stunningly beautiful day again, and was pleased that Friday 13th was the perfect day to launch Defenders of Guernsey on an unsuspecting world.

Lorraine utterly fab this morning. Liaising with the technical guy getting the laptop plugged into a large screen and also talking to teachers. This freed me to do the vital work of pacing about nervously. Children from Vauvert school arrived in bright red jumpers and settled down. Lorraine did a special hands up finger wiggling thing, which hypnotised all the children instantly.

First we played the talking skull head video I’d recorded welcoming them to the event. I’d put in sound file behind it called graveyard wind which worked nicely too. Then I biffed onto the stage and started talking about where writers get their ideas for characters from. I lay on the floor for a bit said that the idea had come to me while playing a corpse in Wrong several years ago. Lorraine played them a snip from Wrong with Mark, Beth and Callum.

I moved on then to talk about playing with computer avatars, and played them the little video I put together a few years ago about a skeleton going to a swimming pool. Then into how I had created Skelton's character, showed them mum’s pictures, read an excerpt from the novel where Grace goes into a restaurant and finds she is sitting next to two skeleton men. Finally I talked about Guernsey, my connection to it and setting the story on the island. Read the opening chapter of Defenders of Guernsey, talked about cliffhangers, got them to help me make noises like a ghostly goat, and read the third chapter, with children helping delightedly on the ghostly goat noises which drifted eerily through the town's market square.

When I told these children at the end of the session that I was going to give them a free copy of Defenders, they were genuinely amazed and delighted. Worth every ounce of effort to see their faces light up with excitement. Pure gold.

The second session with children from Le Murier school went equally as well. These children where a little older and some had complex needs. Their behaviour was impeccable and everyone was engaged, and we all seemed to enjoy ourselves too.

Exhausting though, and after the previous night’s insomnia a reviving coffee was gratefully gulped. We decided to return to the hotel, and we had a half-hour snooze before Lorraine and I piled into a taxi to The Cotils. Lorraine went into town, and I met Richard outside in his van with the dogs, and we went inside to do a poetry reading an hour and a half with the White Horse Writer’s group.

This was a seminar-like affair, with about a dozen of us around a big table sipping tea and water. An extremely attentive and thoughtful group. A lovely session, and as a footnote we sold a book to all but one of the attendees, which was excellent. Richard and I radiating charm and loving the more relaxed discursive mode that this time afforded us.

From here down to town. Richard had to zoom home, and I met Lorraine, who had been mingling with poets in the poetry café and meeting Lesley and Derrek. We snuck off to the pub that overlooks the harbour and had a much needed pint of landlord bitter.

Then to Christies for a poets supper, met lots of poets, and for the first time in the flesh Edward Chaney. Also briefly his musician daughter Olivia Chaney.Unusually bad food for Christies, but a very convivial atmosphere. Lorraine and I left just in time to catch the last bus from town, got off the bus just after the old mill, and walked down the lanes to the Captains, where we had a bottle of pony each. It seemed fitting. Home to the hotel. Beddy byes.

Below two shots from the Vauvert school website, and the children themselves. I asked them to wave at me when they left. Great kids.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Kick off

Up early and a light breakfast before jumping on the bus to go into town. From there walked north along the shining Belle Greve Bay till I reached the BBC buildings. Riccardo outside and we marched in shoulder to shoulder. A lovely chat with Jenny as usual and we had a good 25 minutes on the JKT show with her. She is a lovely broadcaster, and we got in a great plug for Defenders of Guernsey too. Jenny has been consistently fabulous to Richard and myself. It's great to be with Richard too, we are developing into something of double act.

Into town then, and Richard and I sloped off to the hub, which was on Market Terrace, and looked great. Lots of people to chat to, and I met Gabi who edits Island Ink, for the first time. Lorraine arrived as I was mid networking fury. She and I snuck away to Dixneuf for French bistro where I consumed the French speciality fish and chips.

Kick off for Richard and I, reading from A Guernsey Double in the hub. A well attended reading, and we biffed through several poems with gusto. People listening really attentively, which is always great to see. Lorraine cried three times, the sweetie. Afterwards Lorraine and I went for coffee with her pals Derrek and Lesley. Derrek’s story is very similar to mine, and he and Lesley love Guernsey, and so really tune into my poems.

Found myself feeling a bit hyper, so Lorraine took me to the harbour, where we relaxed in the sun, and watched fat mullet ghost about in the water. I also bought a tie and we attended the Gold Sponsor’s reception outside the hub.

Lots of pink wine, and chatting to several people, including the sponsors. Met Annie Barrows the co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, as well as Mary Anne Shafer’s daughter and son in law, who were all very nice, felt secretly guilty that I don't really like the book.

Talking to Catriona, and Jason Monahan, who runs the local museum who I’d first met a few years ago. Lots of local worthies and likeable folks from Barclays Wealth who sponsored the whole thing milling about too. All good fun.

Jane collected Richard, Lorraine and myself, all of whom had been ambushed somewhat by the pink wine. I took the sensible precaution of having a glass of cider once at the Barbarie before biffing off to bed.

You can hear Richard and I talking to Jenny Kendall-Tobias here for a day or so more from 1.09.

Below Jane introduces Richard and I in the Barclays Wealth Hub in Guernsey.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Off to Guernsey

Any day I fly to Guernsey is a good day. Our flight was at six so spent the day running about sorting the house out for Pat and Maureen's stay, and collecting together all the things I need to take, and packing books into cases and hoping that Lorraine would make it back from work in time. Also went to the gym. In the end, all well. And the journey to Gatwick fine. Was cringing about the heavy cases, stuffed with 160 copies of Defenders of Guernsey but in the event didn't have to pay extra for them. I like Auringy, and any plane that has a giant puffin on it gets my vote. However there was a chartered replacement from another airline today, and the pilot flew in eccentrically to the island and landed heavily. Rather pleased to be on dry land.

Reading about the Literary Festival in the Guernsey Press while mid-air. Richard and I were mentioned as 'local scribes', still it was better than nothing, which is what we have previously received from the Press.

Lungfuls of fresh air outside the airport, and Lorraine and I were waiting for a taxi when Richard appeared. An unexpected pleasure, and he drove us to La Barbarie but didn't stop as he and Jane are in a frenzy of pre-festival activity.

Checking-in I gave Andrew the owner of the hotel a copy of Defenders of Guernsey, which has a mention of La Barbarie in it. A very warm welcome. I had booked a larger room this time too. Once the cases were dumped, Lorraine and I thought it rude not to have a pint of Rocquette in the bar, and then snap into the most delicious pork belly I have ever tasted.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fly with a blue behind

Zooming through my 'to-do' list today, most of it focused on the children's sessions on Friday morning. This involved making a video of myself as a talking skull introducing the children's session, and collecting the booklets from the printer.

Slightly disappointed with the result, and some conversations with the printers afterwards. They are the simplest kind of booklet, staple bound in the middle, but when left to their own devices tend to spring open. Apparently they will settle down if I keep them in their boxes. Nevertheless I am pleased that I have managed to produce them so quickly, and the story works and will I hope be well received on the island -- if I can get them on the plane.

To the gym this afternoon. Need to get back into a tighter routine when I return from the gem of the sea as have found myself unaccountably hungry.

Popped over to Matt's place primarily to meet his sister Kris, who was as nice a Hull lass as you could wish to meet. As well as Matt and Wayne, Adam was there, the percussionist who played in our concerts last year, and who will also be on the CD. Tim and Guy and John were all there too. John has given up cigarettes, and has also given up booze as he can't not smoke if he's had a glass of wine. Wayne's father had brought around a load of early work by Wayne. Big canvases. Some of them very good.

Much chatting outside in the garden, sitting under the wheeling plough.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Defenders on the brink

Off to the printer this morning to sign off Defenders of Guernsey, and get them to accomodate the corrections. All fine. Looking good and I am pleased with it. Home and after a long chat with Mum off to do a bit of sweating in the gym. Afternoon spent organising clips for the presentation, and working my way through my list of things to do.

Watched an reasonably scholarly programme BBC 2 Timewatch Special on the archeological case for Santorini as being the origin of the Atlantis legend. Have been very interested in Atlantis lately.

In the evening off to see Photographic Memory by David Sheppeard. A gay-themed and discursive piece which I found interesting on memory and identity. Handily this was in the Nightingale Theatre which is about 20 yards from my house. I know David through the Marlborough Theatre.

Below the proof copy snapped on a table at the printers.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Pots and pottering

Up to make final amends to Defenders of Guernsey. I find the business of making these amends very stressful. The aim is perfection, but I cannot attain it in the timescale I inflicted on myself. I worked at the Architect's Journal as a sub-editor for a month, and even when copy has been seen by a writer, a team of sub-editors, and the magazine's Editor howlers still snuck through.

Then off to the Diva show again where in a Frazieresque way I bought two small but exquisite pots by Jutka Fisher. Lorraine buying pots too. I blame my recent enthusiasm for pots and ceramics on Janet (who has long had one of Jutka's jugs on her fireplace which I have long admired). For years I have preferred paintings and photography and flat images. These days I find myself equally drawn to pots. Anyhow, Janet cheerily said that over 200 people went to her open house last year, and they were on course for doing better today.

A low key afternoon. A bout of Sainsbury's shopping and then I did a couple of hours work in the afternoon for my French clients. Lorraine happily planting flowers in one of my windowboxes, and putting a joint in the oven while I struggled with the brief-free Franglais I'd been sent.

Bitter wormwood...Manchester United beat Chelsea today, which means United win the league this year and not Chelsea. A few text gloats from Anton including telling me that there would be a documentary about Guernsey on BBC 2 at 10pm tonight. Of course this is the time for Match of the Day. Gah.

Below my two new Jutka Fisher pots.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


Much needed rain last night, enjoyed hearing it falling on Lorraine's velux windows.

Beth and Lorraine off to London for Beth's audition at The Drama Centre in London. Beth somewhat stressed as they departed. I returned home and quietly set about working on Betty the Spacegirl and prevented people being lascerated as they walk past my front garden by exuberant roses which have flowered and doubled in size in about a week. A vase of cut roses in my front room.

Nice chat with my neighbour Alex and his mother. Later, while I was working I had my window open and could hear Calliope getting huge attention, and saw her rolling on her back while people cooed over her and tickled her tummy. Fresh from this, the atrocious weasel ran into my house, jumped onto my desk and bit my hand quite hard. Cats have two faces.

At lunchtime to Janet's house to check all was well as she opened Diva, her first open house. Everything immaculately organised, and looking good. Two of the artist makers were there. One earnestly saying to the other 'I like your monkeys,' which struck me as funny.

Back home to continue rose struggling, writing, and boofing on my sofa. Lorraine and Betty returned. Beth had not been successful at the drama centre, which means she is definitely going to Kingston, which I think will suit her nicely.

Lorraine and I had a relaxed night. Lorraine read Defenders of Guernsey, and so did Richard. Both pointed out errors in the text which I will have a chance to correct on Monday morning before it goes to press, which is good. Both liked the story too, which is a relief. Then listening to music, followed by watching some footie. Both very tired by then and I could barely keep my eyes open.

Below a few snaps of Janet's house and parts of her Diva show on the Seven Dials trail.

Friday, May 06, 2011

A spot of hanging

Business and admin to do this morning, amazing how things mount up after I've been in monomaniac mode. In the afternoon off to Janet's house to help with a bit of hanging, and general milling about before her Open House exhibition 'Diva' kicks off tomorrow.

Good chat with Ken's son in law Huss who is exhibiting some rather fine mosaic, fused glass and light combinations. Hung up one or two of Mum's paintings too.

Off then to meet Betty and Mark to discuss our latest Marlborough Theatre wheezes on 17th and 19th June. We are going to do Wrong again, plus Betty the Spacegirl, which I am now starting, plus a promising idea Mark is putting together about a Pirate. Should be lots of fun. Naturally had this meeting in the Basketmakers, where by law most artistic conversations must be conducted. Beth also twitching slightly over her audition tomorrow for the Drama Centre, a prestigious thesp school in London.

Lorraine off to the funeral of her friend Steve Alvey this afternoon, and was naturally rather sad. She had shared a flat with him and Gary her ex husband at one point. Once she was back in Brighton, having driven for hours, we ushered her to the local curry house ate and then took her home.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

A sigh of relief

Finally finished Defenders of Guernsey and got the files off to the printers. Mentally exhausted racing to meet this deadline. However I am pleased with the results.

To the gym as an antidote to tense hunching over screens day and night. It felt great. Thence to the polling station, to vote in the council elections, and in the voting reform referendum. I voted yes to change, but only because there wasn't a "er...probably" box to tick. The polling station not exactly thronging when I arrived there a little after four. Campaigns on both sides of the argument full of backbiting and lousily conducted. Maybe it is my age, but the current crop of politicians seem like Lilliputians. Not sure which of the leaders of the three main parties nauseates me more.

Thence to The Basketmakers to meet Matt for pints of Seafarers beer. Got talking to a friend of Matt's called Joe who was in a late incarnation of a group called Stereolab some of whose tracks are rather big and clever, and his friend Emily who was almost stereotypically French: slim and chic, with a streak of wildness, and going outside to smoke continuously. Then home to eat fish and chips and glaze happily at the TV.

Matt sent me later the sound file for Clameur, the music he has written to my poem. It is really good, and I am very excited to hear it actually sung and played.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Laying out

Working from seven thirty this morning till gone nine today. However I have laid out Defenders of Guernsey, and had my story proofed by Catherine who described herself as a Comma Martinet. Very grateful to have my story looked at by someone so accomplished. She really liked it too, which was a bonus.

A short walk for half an hour this lunchtime just to breathe a bit, and a stroll to the pub this evening. But my usual Wednesday boys weren't there, so I came home after a single sharpener. Once home realised I was so tired that I had left my Crackberry in the Pub. Pegged back there, and it was safe behind the bar.

A zombie evening.

Below the front cover of the Defenders of Guernsey short story.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Nit picking

Up early and straight to work on the story. Spent much of the day combing the text for nits and clumsiness. Another month on it would haven been nice, but the planets may never align for me in the same way again. There will never be a better time to launch a short children's story than at the Guernsey Literary Festival next week. And as my new philosophy means I take every opportunity that presents itself, I must go for it. I've looked at it so much in the last days that I can no longer see the textual wood for the trees. However: an amazing stroke of luck. Catherine Pope, who republishes Victorian novels, has offered to proof Defenders of Guernsey for me after I sent out a Facebook SOS.

Walked across town to one digital printers and got the ball rolling with them. Also spoke to folks in Guernsey about my technical requirements for the Children's sessions. Meanwhile Richard, who is poleaxed by an evil back, has set up a BBC Guernsey appearance for us on JKT's show for Thursday morning.

Hard work today which, of course, is its own reward.

Monday, May 02, 2011

No trial

Calliope now in her summer cycle and woke me by delicately inserting a claw into the back of my hand at 6:30. After some catwrangling, started work at 8.00am on the Defenders of Guernsey story leaving Lorraine to snooze.

Worked through till 5.00pm, pausing only to listen to various garbled news accounts of the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Surely I can't be the only person who thinks that a trial would have been nice. There must be a better demonstration of the virtues of democracy and justice than a bullet in the head and being dumped in the sea. I'm sure conspiracy theories are already multiplying like mould in a petri dish.

Defenders of Guernsey hours from completion. Now seeking someone to read it.

At five down to The Basketmakers to meet Lorraine, Beth, Mark and Sam. Lorraine with bargain trousers from shopping. Mark and Betty off to do work in various directions, Sam came with us to the curry house for an early meal before I returned home prompted by an email from Richard sternly reminding me of my duties as a blogger.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Wrapper's delight

Up at 7.00am to work on Defenders of Guernsey. Some time later Lorraine and Mum surfaced. We went down Trafalgar Street to Nia where we had a rather nice breakfast. Slightly pompously I told them afterwards how much the service and food had improved since I was last there.

Then a lengthy period of wrapping and pricing Mum's framed watercolours, unframed watercolours,and her Giclée prints. This process rendered slightly more problematic by the fact that Mum is on heavy duty tranquillisers which appears to be the standard treatment for shingles. Although it is understandably making her a bit vague, it has eliminated the pain, which is great.

Moments of realisation that prints that had been laboriously wrapped hadn't been signed and so on. Eventually, after splendid help from Lorraine, and a trip to Rymans from me, everything was wrapped and priced and packed into Lorraine's car and driven off to Janet and Ken's house. There Janet is presenting her Diva open house as part of the Brighton Festival. There was a good deal of coffee sipping here and setting the world to rights with broad left-inflected brushstrokes, as is only proper. Janet has assembled a good deal of lovely work, and her own textiles are looking fantastic too. Beautiful colours which go excellently with Mum's work. A definite must-see on the Brighton open house trails.

Home and took advantage of Lorraine offering to cook some of the mounds of vegetables purchased in St Alban's market yesterday to talk to Mum about how Lorraine and I have plans to move in with one another. Also had a long chat with the Tobster this evening, on this and other themes. I am finding few are propelled yelping from their chairs in surprise or alarm at this news, which is rather nice.

A gold sofa evening, sipping teas and waters watching Match of the Day 2, featuring Manchester United being beaten and Chelsea's win yesterday. There is no better footie viewing to be had.

Below one of Mum's abstract paintings. Softly, as in a morning's sunrise. For more go here. Her site needs revamping but you get an idea.